Within DHS, ICE Pressies Ignore USCIS Accomplishment

By David North on July 5, 2012

A couple of months ago, one arm of the Department of Homeland Security did the right thing — it re-designed a form it had been using for decades to make it less useful to fraudsters. This was done by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and was covered in an earlier blog of mine.

A few days ago, another arm of DHS, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), broke up a sophisticated immigration fraud ring that had been frequently abusing the same form, the I-797.

ICE, in short, had dramatically justified the USCIS action, but the ICE pressies never mentioned the prior USCIS decision. Clearly the decision to break up the old Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2003, an entity in which members of the staff often talked with each other, is still having negative ramifications. (ICE, USCIS, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), all used to be parts of the INS.)

I know that eyes glaze over at the mention of government forms, or the internal organization of bureaucracies, but the acts of both ICE and USCIS were success stories in the fight against immigration fraud, though the USCIS press people did their best to hide that fact.

Here is what happened:

What USCIS Did: The form I-797, in its various formats, announced government actions, in many cases not granting a benefit. It was printed on high-quality, government-bond-type paper and looked really impressive. Illegal aliens often used the I-797 to fool local officials, like the staff of state motor vehicle agencies, that they had legal status, and this led to the issuance of genuine driver's licenses and license plates to aliens who should not have received them.

As a result, USCIS decided to print the documents on plain office paper, and where it was the case, indicate in big type that the I-797 did not grant a benefit of any kind. The USCIS press operation cheered this decision as one that saved printing costs, which it did, not to prevent fraud.

What ICE Did: Meanwhile, a large criminal enterprise, run by Young-Kyu Park, a person of Korean ancestry, paid USCIS contract employees at the agency's Western Forms Center in Montclair, Calif., to steal the I-797 forms by the hundreds. Then Park's co-conspirators filled them out to make them look as if they had been issued by the government and sold them for thousands of dollars each to illegal aliens. This service was advertised in Korean-language newspapers under such headings as "New Jersey Driver's Licenses".

ICE found out about these operations and in late June announced that it had secured indictments from a federal grand jury in Newark, N.J., against 22 co-conspirators. Subscribers to PACER, the federal courts' reporting system can read the long indictment (meaning lots of charges and lots of evidence) at case 2:12-cr-00453-FSH, document 35.

Thoughts: Is it a good idea to let contract workers, as opposed to federal employees, have access to anything as valuable, and stealable (if that's a word), as DHS forms? Yes, some federal employees are caught breaking the law, but I suspect they are better vetted than contract workers.

The second question: Does anyone in investigating agencies, such as ICE, routinely read any of the shady classified ads in the foreign language press, some of which are in English? It would provide a number of useful tips.

I recently read the "love-wanted" classified ads in a Bengali newspaper published in this country and some of them seemed to have overtones of immigration marriage fraud.

Similarly, a dozen years ago, in the Mariana Islands, there were many Chinese guestworkers subject to instant firing and local-government-approved deportation if they got pregnant. Meanwhile, seeking to serve that market there were storefront operations with ads promising, in Mandarin, "women's health services", which was code for abortions. Roe v. Wade had not (and has not) reached the Marianas, where abortion is at least nominally illegal; the local cops, however, could not read the Chinese writing, and the signs continued to promote the illegal offers.

Nonimmigrant Chinese guestworkers in the Marianas in those days did not have travel documents that would let them go to Guam, a 20-minute plane ride away, where abortions were available and legal. Meanwhile, in the Marianas, a guestworker who became pregnant was sure to be fired, and a fired guestworker, under local law, was instantly deportable. Given that situation, many pregnant guestworkers sought illegal abortions.

That the United States, in effect, tolerated local government-imposed illegal abortions was one of the most egregious of the immigration policy abuses in those islands.

A little curiosity, on the mainland, as in the islands, aided by some linguistic skills, can help law enforcement.